The Radical Redefintion of the SBC: Part 2

That didn’t take long.  What many of us predicted would be the next phase in the destruction radical redefinition of the Southern Baptist Convention has now begun.  With the unilateral appointment of a Name Change Task Force by SBC President Bryant Wright, the stage has been set for what will turn out to be one of the most divisive battles that the SBC has ever seen.  Not content with taking control of the new North American Mission Board, the SBC elites are intent on dismantling the Southern Baptist Convention as we now know it.  For those same elites, that is a good thing.  For the majority of grassroots Southern Baptists, not so much.  So much for the unity that was promised with the passage of the GCR.  Funny how real hope and change don’t always match the politician’s rhetoric.

For anyone following SBC politics in the last two years (or in the last thirty years for that matter), this move should surprise absolutely no one.  Bart Barber has accurately described Wright’s actions as an appointment “by fiat.”  Even though the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention was apprised of this new Task Force, Bryant Wright has acknowledged that this is an unofficial committee:

“Obviously, this is not an official committee empowered by a vote of messengers
to an SBC annual meeting,” Wright said. “It is a task force I am asking to
advise me as president on whether this is a matter we should bring forward for
convention action.”

Whether or not the SBC Constitution or Bylaws confer authority upon a President to unilaterally appoint an ad hoc committee without the express approval of messengers in annual meeting is open for debate.  However, there can be no doubt that President Wright has broken with past precedent and protocol.  Kind of reminds me of another President who has broken just about every protocol in his two years in high office.  You would think that something as momentous as changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention — which has been voted on and rejected almost ten times, the most recent being in 2004 — would require some type of messenger-approved Task Force.  If you think that in today’s political climate within the SBC, you would be wrong.

I asked recently when an “ends justify the means” mentality became the primary governing model for some within SBC leadership.  Some opined this happened as early as the Conservative Resurgence while others pegged it within the last several years with the rise of second and third generation CR leaders, particularly following the death of long-time Baptist statesman Adrian Rogers.  Whenever it may have started, the last two years — primarily with the GCR Task Force, the sealing of records, and parliamentary shenanigans at the Orlando meeting — have seen a spike in the use of hardball secular-type politics within the SBC.

I am not so naive as to believe that politics — even from 1845 — have not been a part of the Convention.  However, what we seem to be witnessing is the use of political tactics that have heretofore been reserved for the world of government.  In fact, I would suggest that some leaders within the SBC — either knowingly or “accidentally” — are using many of the same principles that the sitting President of the United States of America has used and continues to use in his effort to batter his political opponents.  However, as an inconsistent Calvinist, I would say that I don’t believe in “accidents” or “coincidences.”

This post is not intended to speak to the merits of a name change.  I’ll explore that issue in subsequent posts.  For the record, I strongly oppose changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention.  If you thought I had strong words for the so-called Great Commission Resurgence, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Some will say that this is much ado about nothing.  Many will argue that what President Wright has done is perfectly acceptable (although if Jimmy Allen were to have made a similar unilateral move circa 1978, all h*** would have broken loose.)  A few will opine the responses of some bloggers (including mine) are nothing more than overreactions to a perfectly reasonable move by Bryant Wright.

That may all be well and good, but when cooperating conservative Southern Baptists see the radical (i.e., the opposite of conservative) steps that the ruling elites want to implement, steps which many believe will lead to the dismantling of the Southern Baptist Convention, then we cannot be silent.  Indeed, before it is too late, we have a moral obligation to “stand athwart history yelling STOP!” 

 

21 comments for “The Radical Redefintion of the SBC: Part 2

  1. September 21, 2011 at 7:04 AM

    Scott,

    A very good summary as usual. I happen to think it to be unmitigated nonsense to see presidential powers in what the bylaws do not expressly prohibit rather than what the bylaws expressly present.

    Also, why there are those (i.e. whom you linked) who cannot see this as a serious breach of Baptist polity which is under dispute rather than whining on and on without a scintilla of proof that Bryant Wright’s character is being “assassinated” stand beyond reason.

    With that, I am…
    Peter

    • September 21, 2011 at 7:49 AM

      Peter,

      Thanks. The problem some have with the negative reaction that some have had to Bryant Wright’s move is that they perhaps do not see the hardball politics involved in President Wright’s formation of this Task Force. Therefore, when folks (including me) react in a strong and forceful way to what we perceive to be a power move (no matter how nicely it may have been couched), then we are accused of “character assassination.” I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t see Bryant Wright as immoral or evil. However, when he makes such a power play that not only breaks with past protocol, but has no affirmative authority conferred by the Constitution and Bylaws of the Convention, then challenging that does not constitute character assassination. We can all sit back and just “take it,” but our silence will be cowardice. Bart Barber, in commenting at Voices, quoted Barry Goldwater’s famous maxim, “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Tolerance in the face of tyranny is no virtue.”With that I would concur. Hope you have a great day. God bless,

      Howell

  2. Ron Hale
    September 21, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    Howell,

    Thanks for the article(s) and I enjoy your angle from your legal background.

    I think you are a SBTS grad; what do you think about the “Southern” Baptist Theological Seminary getting a task force going to study a name change? It seems the same logic would apply to our oldest seminary. And … it is not our most “southern” school when it comes to the lay of the land. What is the possibilty of this task force?

    • September 21, 2011 at 8:52 PM

      Ron,

      Thanks for the kind words. If we are going to be consistent, then why not look at all the names of our entities and see if we can come up with new names that the unsaved masses will approve. Let’s do a study like Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) in which a rather small minority of those polled had problems with the name. This issue is, I believe, a smokescreen for getting rid of the name that really bothers most of the young, restless church planter types. The name is not “Southern,” but rather “Baptist.” I don’t know of too many SBC churches that have “Southern” in their name. I know of many, many churches — both new and established (think Ronnie Floyd’s Cross Church) who have run as far away from “Baptist” as one could run. I believe that the ruling elites will use the same principles of Obama and double-down on changing the entire name, removing both Southern and Baptist. How they think they can pull this off in New Orleans is baffling, but rest assured, nothing is being done by accident or coincidence. As to the possibility of my alma mater — SBTS — appointing a name change task force, not gonna happen. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. God bless,

      Howell

      • Max
        September 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        Howell,

        You provide good insight re: “Baptist”. Several new SBC church plants in my neck of the woods have really cool names which might attract, but do not identify. There are “Life” churches … those with “Water” in mind …. the “Bridge” people … “The” places to go … and, of course, the “Point”s. It’s all enough to make you wonder “What’s the point?!” I suppose it has something to do with being culturally-relevant.

        Many folks who attend such places have no idea that they are associated with SBC, or Baptist for that matter, unless a member inquires about denominational affiliation … or ask “What’s that?” if prompted to contribute to the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon, or Annie Armstrong. My concern is not so much that this new breed of pastor desires to distance himself from “Southern”, but perhaps from “Baptist” as well.

  3. Lydia
    September 21, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    Howell, you have nailed it. HOW we do things is important. Because HOW we do them has been not only part of our culture for 100 years but a reflection of our doctrine of the priesthood Everyone is jumping on name change as the focus and I want to scream: Hold on a minute!

    Being focused on the name change misses the larger point that BAD precedents are being set and pretty soon will be normal SOP. A bad move. Like the sealed records. Which are still sealed!

    • September 21, 2011 at 11:25 PM

      Lydia,

      You are exactly correct when you say that “How we do things is important.” What we are witnessing on a national scale is the same scenario that has played itself out in so many churchs, both large and small. The new pastor comes in with his “vision from God” and begins to make radical changes. In the process, he uses the (bully) pulpit to rail against his opponents until most have finally left. Despite our reputation for fighting, most Baptists do not have any desire to fight. Many arrogant pastors know this and will use it to their advantage as they wait for their opponents to wear down and leave the church. Before you know it, the church has been destroyed. What could have prevented such a sad state of affairs? That people spoke up before it was too late. That they did not allow the pastor to circumvent the rules and make up new ones to suit his own purposes. I have a new OP out tomorrow which talks about this very thing. For those of us who love the church, the SBC (and yes, Jesus), we cannot be silent while damage is being done from within. The GCR and the sealing of the records was round one. The elites in power think that they can now move on and win round two. Unless grassroots Southern Baptists speak out forcefully, the battle will be lost and the Convention as we know it gone. I am not willing to stand silently on the sidelines. Much like the political arena with Obama and the fawning media, the grassroots have an uphill climb, but it can be done. I’m not ready to throw in the towel to the forces who would seek to remake the SBC in their image. As always, thanks for the comments and for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

      • Max
        September 22, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        Howell,

        I almost shed a tear just now (and might before I finish this) as I reflect on a young pastor in our town who just successfully bullied his way to a church split. Many long-time members, good people who have served the Lord well, left under the pressures of sudden changes in worship style, theological shift, and abrupt transition in church governance. They left behind nice facilities they had financed over years of hard work to set up a new gathering in a store-front with a previous pastor who came out of retirement to shepherd them. Rebellion is a sad thing to behold, particularly when it affects fine Christian folks you know and love.

        • September 22, 2011 at 2:18 PM

          Max,

          While not a younger pastor, we have had the same situation in our Association. Over the last four years, a thriving Southern Baptist church was destroyed from the inside-out by those who were supposed to shepherd the flock. Well, I guess if you mean running off more than 75% of your flock without even replacing them, then this could be construed as shepherding. As our church celebrates our 60th Anniversary in a few weeks, the other church that I speak of was our mother church which planted us in 1951. There is virtually nothing left of that once great church. Truly sad for all who loved the church and its mission.

          As to the name change, I read something from Ed Stetzer today that leads me to believe that the goal of the name change task force will not be merely taking “Southern” out of the name, but “Baptist” as well. I’ll have more on this development tomorrow, but suffice it to say, the grassroots better wake up quickly or it will be too late. As Jenn and Lydia astutely pointed out, a name change will open the door to those churches from SGM and Acts 29 who did not want to identify with the SBC, but now want join this new, hip and cool network or fellowship (take your pick, one of those names will be included in the new name). Of course, this hip, cool network/fellowship has boatloads of money to distribute to church planters throughout North America. Who wouldn’t want to join? Thanks for stopping by. God bless,

          Howell

          • Max
            September 22, 2011 at 2:53 PM

            Hmmmm … I’m reluctant to say much more about this, lest I be accused of conspiracy theory. But, it sure makes an old man wonder what’s in those mysteriously sealed GCR documents.

          • September 22, 2011 at 3:56 PM

            Max,

            I understand your reluctance. I’m quite certain that those in power within the SBC would love for grassroots Southern Baptists to stay silent on this issue for fear of being labeled a conspiracy theorist. However, one need only read carefully the public words of those advocating for a name change (“or a study”) to understand where this is all headed. Oh, the things we could learn from the sealed records of the GCRTF. The talking points have been handed out, the website is up and running, twitter is all a twitter, and the elites are out in full force pushing their radical agenda. I didn’t recognize the GCR for what it was until it was too late. For the record, I voted for the creation of the GCRTF in 2009, but against the report in 2010. The elites are running the same play from the same playbook because it worked so well for them in 2009 and 2010. Until the grassroots know how to stop the plays, we will get run over again and again. Those in power have had lots of practice perfecting their game. It’s time for the grassroots SBs to get in the game! Thanks and God bless,

            Howell

          • Jenn
            September 22, 2011 at 4:29 PM

            How do you stop the plays when the elites have chosen the next President of the SBC already? The President is responsible for appointing trustees and the EC is he not? The elites I think and I’ve seen this intimated elsewhere have very in a very wiley manner chosen the next President so that any and every criticism of him would be dismissed as racist. Not only does it seem like we are set up to have to support the elites choice for President who we can assume will we “guided” by the elites in all his decisions, but the election of the first black President is also a good time to discuss the “origins” of the “Southern” in SBC so let’s show everybody we’re not racists. Is there anybody who will have the courage to stand up and boldly proclaim, you will not use race and play these kinds of politics in this convention where we are attempting to God’s work. T

          • Jenn
            September 22, 2011 at 4:34 PM

            Sorry, something happened in my last comment before I finished.

            If we see the kind of racial politics that the world plays come to the SBC and it seems like that it is being set up to go that way – then the SBC simply is not worth saving. Those kinds of politcs are pure evil in my opinion.

            What needs to happen to jolt people out of complacency is some of those Southern States with their churches withdrawing their support. If a split is what it takes then a split is what it takes, but the way things are going where you have people defending the indefensible all because they agree with the agenda is just unbelievable.

          • September 22, 2011 at 6:31 PM

            Jenn,

            The way you stop the plays of the elites is to know what plays the elites typically run. When you have knowledge, then you can more successfully defend against those plays that have worked in the past. Just because the elites have annointed a successor to Wright does not make it a foregone conclusion. Everyone thought that Ronnie Floyd would be elected President in 2006 and Frank Page won on the first ballot.

            As to Presidential powers, the President appoints the Committee on Committies (two from each state/convention)which then nominates those to serve on the Nominating Committee. Those who serve on the Nominating Committee nominate persons to serve on the various Trustee Boards of the Convention. The President does not directly appoint any Trustees (including members of the Executive Committee), but rather uses this process to fill the boards. That was why it was vitally important to have conservative Presidents elected at the beginning of the CR in 1979 so that they could begin this involved process of changing Trustee boards. I believe we are witnessing the same scenario, only this time with Presidents who are proponents of the GCR. This second/third generation CR leaders learned well.

            As to the racial politics that may be involved, I have already read at least two of the elites who have used the SBC’s founding and the issue of slavery as a potential reason for a name change. I believe that this may be a talking point that we hear more and more in the days ahead. Like you, I am appalled (but not surprised) that the race card has even been floated. It’s not been played yet, but I will continue to read the words of those who are agitating for a name change to see where they end up on this explosive and divisive issue. But, you are certainly not off base in your discernment on the issue of race and the name change. Thanks for the insightful comments. God bless,

            Howell

  4. Lydia
    September 21, 2011 at 7:53 PM

    Oh an and another thing…I said this over at SBCvoices but I have reservations that Dave will let it stand: When Wright says that no SBC money will be spent on the task force that is not really the case. I doubt very seriously that Al and Kevin, both SBC employees, will be paying their travel and lodging expenses out of pocket. Wil they take vacation time for this duty, too? And will the pastors be paying out of pocket or their churches paying the travel bills? Of course, churches can, it is their business. I just hope they know they are paying for it.

    On another note, I wonder if the SBC has a breakdown of tither ages across the board. (wink) I see this going over like a lead balloon with certain age groups that are the devout tithers.

    And knowing what is going on over at SGM, it would not surprise me in the least to see this name change opening the way for some sgm churches to come under our new name umbrella since a split is becoming more evident over there.

    • Jenn
      September 22, 2011 at 12:45 PM

      Lydia, you bring up SGM, SGM and Acts 29 are exactly why I think we are seeing this name change. It’s to open up the tent to bring in these groups so as to further the “take over.” Of course everyone who has watched the SBC these last few years and seen these types of power plays coming have been dismissed as conspiricy theorists. The problem is that once you’ve brought in the SGM and Acts 29 crew then the real exclusion begins. The Seminary’s will be exclusively Calvinist and anyone with any position within the convention will have to sign off on the Abstract and worship the DOG to be considered worthy. At some point the BFM will be changed and only Calvinist will be welcomed. Of course their will be howls of protest at me stating this, but so far all those “tin foil hatted” people have been pretty much on the mark as to what direction the elites have taken. If anyone knows anything about SGM and Acts 29, it’s that they are not inclusive, but are all about excluding those who don’t follow their dogma.

    • Jenn
      September 22, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      Lydia, considering the outcome of the task force is already decided I don’t know what expenses could be accrued. Is there anyone who actually believes this task force is going to come back with anything other than we have to change the name and here it there’s name we choose. I think it’s naive to think the “work” of this task force is anything beyond how do we force this on the people so we can bully them into voting the right way.

  5. Lydia
    September 22, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    Jenn, Four years ago, I would have called your theory an conspiracy with a tin foil hat. No longer.

    CJ Mahaney gave SBTS 100,0000 and SGM gave SBTS 100,000. Why? SGM has it’s own pastors college which is a requirement and the students have to pay, for the most part and are then put in an sgm church. When our children’s minister is recommending Mahaney books to parents, I must take notice. (Because of the total legalism of what they teach as in I kissed dating goodbye and girls are not to go to college, etc)

    If you read the Detwiler documents and paid any attention to sgmsurvivors (and the horror stories of how the victims of child molesters were treated) and then read MOhler’s statement to the press when CJ “stepped down”, you have every reason to be concerned. With CJ going to Dever’s church even though sgm pastors being disciplined were not allowed to go to a different church……Something is up. Why is one of our leading seminary presidents, an employee of the SBC, supporting this stuff?

    See Mohler’s immediate comments about supporting SGM’s highly authoritarian polity

    http://blogs.courier-journal.com/faith/2011/07/12/mohler-backs-mahaney-dismisses-accusations-of-abusive-leadership/

  6. Lydia
    September 22, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    You know, “Southern” does not mean a thing to me but “Baptist” does. From the days when I was a youngster and it was drilled into me from my Baptist heritage that I would stand before the Lord…alone…. one day and give an account. We are seeing the disintegration of the doctrine of the Holy Priesthood. At one time, a Baptist staple. But that doctrine does not work well in authoritarian organizations.

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